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Did Microsoft Just Back Out of Another Part of the Novell Deal?
Friday, August 10 2007 @ 08:38 AM EDT

Yesterday, there was a headline that Microsoft's Sam Ramji had said at LinuxWorld that Microsoft will not allow Windows Vista or XP to be virtualized on top of Linux. Naturally, that made news. But today, the story has changed. I've updated our article that mentioned it, but I wanted to highlight it here separately, because I think, unless the reports are again incorrect, that Microsoft just announced another change in the Novell-Microsoft agreements, this time to the Technical Collaboration agreement.

The headline now reads Microsoft Has No Plans to Optimize Windows for Virtualization on Linux:
Microsoft is not working on optimizing the virtualization of Windows Vista or Windows XP on top of Linux, Sam Ramji, the director of Microsoft's open-source software lab, said at the annual LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here Aug. 7.

While Microsoft does provide customers with licenses to run the two Windows operating systems in a virtual machine regardless of the underlying host operating system, including Linux and the Mac OS, its technical efforts around Windows and Linux interoperability on the desktop are primarily focused on .Net and Java interoperability, he said in an address titled "Linux and Windows Interoperability: On the Metal and on the Wire."

"What we have heard predominantly from customers is that they want to be able to mix and match their data center applications, but we haven't seen significant demand for Linux applications on the desktop or for desktop virtualization on top of Linux," Ramji said.

If that is accurate, then I believe it represents an important change. May I please direct you to this article about Novell's SEC filing, which includes this as one announced goal of the two companies' technical collaboration:

* Novell and Microsoft will develop technologies to optimize SLES and Windows running as guests on each other's operating systems.

Here's the 8K so you can verify that is indeed what the technical collaboration agreement says. You can read the joint press release here, which also included a paragraph about virtualization:

“As a result of this collaboration, customers will now be able to run virtualized Linux on Windows or virtualized Windows on Linux,” said Jeff Jaffe, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Novell. “Customers continually ask us how they can consolidate servers with multiple operating systems through virtualization. By working together, Novell and Microsoft enable customers to choose the operating system that best fits their application and business needs.”

And they said something similar in their Joint Letter to the Open Source Community still on Novell's website:

# Virtualization

* Microsoft and Novell will collaborate in enhancing and developing the functionality required to efficiently virtualize Windows on Linux and Linux on Windows.

* Both will now be first class citizens in data centers, addressing the needs of mixed environments. They will both enjoy optimized, supported and tuned device drivers to maximize their potential.

And here's the joint press release, Microsoft and Novell Announce Technical Collaboration for Customers, about the technical collaboration agreement sent out in February of this year:

REDMOND, Wash., and WALTHAM, Mass.— 12 Feb 2007— Microsoft Corp. and Novell today unveiled more details about their joint technical roadmap and the benefits customers can expect from the collaboration. Microsoft and Novell are engaged in joint development on four areas of technology that address significant problems faced by enterprise customers today: virtualization, Web services for managing physical and virtual servers, directory and identity interoperability, and document format compatibility.

“With this first installment of the Microsoft-Novell development roadmap, we see that both companies are building on this relationship to develop real, product-specific solutions to deliver on the promises made to customers,” said Al Gillen, research vice president, System Software, for IDC. “The great potential of the November announcement between Microsoft and Novell could have been disappointing without a product-specific roadmap to execute against. With the roadmap, the technology benefits customers can expect will be tangible and delivered on a predictable basis.”


Microsoft and Novell are jointly developing a compelling virtualization offering for Linux* and Windows Server® to consolidate server workloads in heterogeneous data centers. The virtualization collaboration agreement between Novell and Microsoft will result in technology designed to allow customers to do the following:

* Host SUSE® Linux Enterprise Server 10 from Novell® as a virtualized guest on an upcoming service pack of Microsoft® Virtual Server 2005 R2 service pack 1.

* Host SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 as an enlightened guest on the next version of Microsoft Windows Server, code-named “Longhorn,” using the Windows Server virtualization technology.

* Host Windows Server “Longhorn” as a paravirtualized guest on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, using the Xen virtualization technology embedded in the Linux operating system.

These components of the virtualization collaboration will be released throughout 2007.

So customers demanded virtualization and now they don't? Here's Novell's Jeff Jaffe on how virtualization was the driving force behind the deal:

Virtualization roadmap

Virtualization has emerged as a critical problem recently (see my earlier posts on this). It is urgent that we get this solution to customers instantly. This was the most important driver of our entire partnership.

With full virtualization, the “full”, unmodified guest operating system runs on the host operating system. Since it is not modified, the performance is degraded. This might be fine for test environments but it is not practical for production. We don’t need a tight technical collaboration to achieve full virtualization.

So our focus is on optimization. In Linux terminology, paravirtualization. In Windows terminology, enlightened virtualization. This requires a special layer of software that mediates access to hardware resources. This software layer requires modification of the guest OS, but in return offers performance near that of an unvirtualized system.

Ordinarily a change to an operating system, with all of the requisite testing, would take a very long time. Since this is the primary focus, we are applying the resources to bring this out as quickly as possible. In particular, the committed roadmap is:

* SLES 10 will run on Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 as a guest in first calendar half of 2007.

* SLES 10 will run immediately as a enlightened (i.e. optimized) guest on Longhorn, when Longhorn virtualization ships. This is scheduled to be within 6 months of the initial ship date of Longhorn – targeted for the second half of 2007.

* When Longhorn comes out in the second half of 2007, it will be supported as a paravirtualized guest on SLES.

So, unless I'm missing something, doesn't it sound like Microsoft just backed out of, or at least has postponed in a big way, another part of the Novell-Microsoft deal? Or is it that they are interested in server virtualization but not desktop?

It's so pitiful to watch Novell going around declaring its love for Microsoft, telling us how great and necessary the deal was and how it's loyally sticking to the agreement, while Microsoft is telling us, as I read it, that it would like to extricate itself somewhat. Like a boyfriend that tells a girl he's not breaking up with her but he just thinks they should see other people. Or Hollywood couples, where they are separately interviewed, and she tells a reporter how happy they are as a couple, and he tells another that he doesn't think men are suited to monogamy.

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